Survey: Cord-cutters want access to lifestyle, knowledge channels

A still frame from a television program broadcast on the Discovery Channel in June 2021. (Still frame via Discovery Channel, Graphic by The Desk)

Television viewers who have dropped their expensive cable or satellite TV packages still want access to channels that offer lifestyle and knowledge programming, according to a new survey.

The survey carried out by Beta Research in March and published earlier this week found most cord-cutters still crave the Discovery Channel, with nearly two out of five non-cable subscribers desiring access to the network.

Other channels that scored high on a customer’s wish list include Discovery-owned Animal Planet, Food Network, HGTV and Investigation Discovery (ID) along with competing networks History (owned by A+E Networks), Comedy Central (ViacomCBS) and FX (the Walt Disney Company).

More than 1,400 television watchers were evaluated as part of the survey, Beta Research said, including a sub-sample of more than 580 customers who have cut the cord on cable and satellite.

The survey is good news for executives at Discovery Communications, the corporation that owns Discovery Networks and operates some of the most-sought after linear channels by cord-cutters.

On Thursday, a Discovery executive affirmed the company is looking to the future with a strategy that focuses on both its direct-to-consumer offering — it recently launched a streamer called Discovery Plus — as well as its existing cable, satellite and Internet-based pay TV partnerships.

Lisa Holme, the company’s executive in charge of content and commercial strategy, said viewers who want Discovery’s signature brand of reality-based documentaries, knowledge and lifestyle shows can “watch them on the network,” while those who want an elevated experience can “come to Discovery Plus.”

Speaking at the Fierce Video Stream TV Show Conference, Holme affirmed that Discovery Plus is starting to realize a younger audience who are subscribing to the service, compared to older TV viewers who are more likely to watch their traditional linear cable channels.

“We do have a slightly younger audience, so we are also trying to appeal to the cord-cutters and cord-nevers that have fallen out of the TV ecosystem,” she said.

Ex-cable and satellite customers — and those so-called cord-nevers who have never subscribed to a traditional pay TV service — have some low-cost options for accessing the linear Discovery networks online.

The most-notable option is Philo, which counts Discovery Communications as an investor-owner. The streaming service offers nearly every Discovery network in its base package of over 60 top-tier pay TV channels. It costs just $25 a month, which is considerably cheaper than most traditional cable and satellite packages on the market.

Other services, including Google-owned YouTube TV, Dish Network’s Sling TV and Disney’s Hulu with Live TV, also distributes various Discovery networks to subscribers. Those services cost between $35 a month and $65 a month.

The survey appeared to reject the notion that ex-cable customers still crave access to live, major league sports at a time when media companies like Comcast, Disney, ViacomCBS and Fox Corporation are investing millions of dollars acquiring those very sports rights.

On the other hand, it could indicate that millions of households who still subscribe to cable or satellite services are doing so in order to continue accessing regional sports networks and other channels that offer live broadcasts of major league games.

Many of these channels, including regional sports networks, are not offered outside traditional cable or satellite, though some programmers have started increasing the ability to watch a handful of matches through their own streaming services.

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